Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says they will not automatically join the bandwagon of Southern African soccer governing bodies embracing football calendar changes in line with the major leagues in the world as well as the amendments in the CAF calendar.
At least countries in the region such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia are transitioning to have their season run from August to May after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) aligned its schedule to the European calendar.
However, FAM competitions and media director Gomezgani Zakazaka, admitted the issue of abandoning the current Malawi football calendar, which runs from April to December, is giving association a headache because the international calendar coincides with the country’s rainy season, which renders most pitches waterlogged and unplayable.
“The plan is there to change the calendar and we have already initiated discussions with relevant stakeholders,” he said. “We are making a proper analysis on the pros and cons of the development.”
CAF has shifted the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals from its traditional January/February slot to June/July and now plays the CAF club competitions from August to May. The 2018 edition of CAF club competitions, which Malawian clubs Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers joined, was the first to use the new calendar.
Malawi used to have a similar calendar until early 2000 when it was abandoned because there were a number of hindrance including infrastructure and weather.
“We switched to the current Malawi calendar because, much as we were trying to align ourselves with the international calendar, we had some local reasons as most of our matches were affected by rains between December and February. So we will do a proper analysis to see if it will be practical to get back to that route,” Zakazaka said.
He added that even if the stakeholders agree to adhere to the international calendar, it would still take at least three years before the new calendar can be effected in the country as such changes require more time for the restructuring process to be finalised.
Super League of Malawi (Sulom) vice-general secretary Thoko Chazema said much as there are a lot of benefits in embracing the international calendar, it is difficult to implement it in the country.
“We ensure that we complete our season before the rainy season is at advanced stage because our clubs do not have the required facilities to play matches in such weather condition,” he said.
However, the changes could work to the advantage of local clubs’ participation in the continental competitions unlike the current Malawian calendar in place.
Just recently, Silver Strikers almost abandoned their TNM Super League match after it clashed with their CAF Confederations Cup home game against AO CMS of Gabon.
Local players have also been missing out on their dream moves to lucrative leagues as their clubs could not release them for trials due to clash of transfer windows.
In 2016, Nyasa Big Bullets striker Muhammad Sulumba and former Be Forward Wanderers defender Peter Mselema’s failed to undergo trials at Danish second division outfit Herforge Boldklub.
Then, the Malawi transfer window was open but when they were about to leave for Denmark, they were told the trials could not be possible because the Danish league season was about to conclude.
In the current season, priority of participating in the CAF championship went to last year’s TNM Super League champions Wanderers because Malawi is yet to identify league winners while other nations had already identified their ambassadors.
“It is important to consider embracing the international calendar because there are a lot of benefits for the country’s football development. All we need is to improve our infrastructures,” said, football marketing expert, Felix Ngamanya-Sapao.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson Farai Jere was quoted on Daily Sports Zone website as saying that that country’s next season will kick off in August next year once agreed at the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) Assembly meeting this Sunday. n